As a young artist, I try to express my discontent with the injustice in the world we live in. For example: discrimination, oppression, prejudice, corruption, negligence, and so on. My work is a way to fill in the empty space injustice leaves behind. To me it is not only a way to cope with my discontent with the physical reality; it is also a way to make people aware of this injustice. My drive to perform begins with any event that causes a state of indignation within me. Although painting is my main medium, it is not the only way to express myself. Depending of the concept and availability of materials, I search for a medium in which my ideas can be executed.
I truly believe that art has a key role in the development of humankind and as an artist I feel compelled to contribute to society through my work. My goal as an artist is to raise community awareness of these injustices and to help recreate solutions for our society’s shortcomings.
THE PHYSICAL WORLD TAKES OVER, THE BRAINS TAKE OVER
It is truly inspiring and refreshing to see people who have a desire/necessity to work, get things done for themselves, while also generating working space opportunities for artists such as the young talents of the Aruban community. Elvis Lopez and his team have been doing an admirable work here at Ateliers ’89, not only contributing to the Aruban community but also making projects like Caribbean Linked III possible.
I had an unforgettable experience with both Ciro and Mariane Abath. Working with glass is no joke, nor is it a “cool” thing to do. It’s rather hard work and a lot of concentration when melting/blowing glass. It even felt like the material (glass) was using me to become whatever it had to become by the hand of GRAVITY. The glass was just doing its thing and occasionally I would try to convince it to do my thing. Ryan Oduber and Alydia Wever are another creative couple who have been working hard and have succeeded in gathering different artists from this region to create theatrical pieces inspired by the life of Frida Khalo and her work. We also visited ArtFama, a young artists initiative spearheaded by Velvet Ramos. It’s located in the city center of Aruba. It’s comforting to see the younger generation moving. Even if this initiative is at a young stage, I don’t take it for granted, as I know that we all have to start somewhere. Jess Wolff is another local active artist who organises group site specificsite-specific exhibitions under the collective name: Much’i Mondi.
My eyes see this as a miracle, as an oasis in the beautiful dessert. Back home we don’t have a group of young people doing something like this in the city center yet. This is due to economical reasons, isolation of artists of my generation and the fact most of the younger generation are studying abroad. After completing their studies, most of them stay choose to remain abroad.
THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN TECHNICALITY AND EXPRESSION
In addition to the local artists’ studio visits, we also had various trips around this beautiful island. Aruba’s landscape is surreal and familiar at the same time.
I think of all the rock formations that I saw on these trips (especially around the area of the natural pool) in a figurative way, and at the same time I realise how the experience of seeing these rock formations gave me an abstract feeling. When you look at one rock individually, it’s just a rock. But when that rock is part of a much bigger thing, it becomes abstract and many times we take it for granted and just call it a landscape.
Observing these rocks made me think of composition, space and installation in a new way, because of the way they are placed, in a natural way, gravity and nature doing what they do best.
At times during our trip it would be very challenging to walk through some areas, especially at the natural pool. I noticed the effect of these rocks on our physical behavior; everyone there was trying to adapt their footsteps to the forms of the rocks, positioning their bodies in unusual postures. What stood out the most to me was that every single person there could give a rock the function they wanted. The same rock could sometimes be a place to sit, stand or fall on. I can’t help to think of my experience with glass melting and shaping. It is a similar experience to walking through these rock formations.
Up until now my work has been mostly figurative and flat, for example like the images displayed on playing cards. Leaving almost no space for the viewer to make up his own understanding about the work showed. Ironically enough this state of my work is due to painting techniques that I have learned over the years, to help me gain more insight of space and depth. The techniques certainly helped, but at the same time the expression was left behind.
I’m making an attempt to create such abstraction and visual interaction with figuration in my work, in a way a replica of the effect that Aruba’s rocks made on me. It’s an attempt to reconcile with my expression.
ALL I CAN THINK ABOUT ARE ALL THE RELATIONS THAT HAVE BEEN ESTABLISHED THE PAST DAYS…
Before I came to Aruba I experienced the art world in the Caribbean as a beautiful desert, a place of solitude, far away from the art of the west. A world ruled by the older generation of artists who have a respectable path/career but who seem so far away from the reality of a young artist like me. But why does this disconnection exist?
During the presentations of the past weeks, I have not only seen admirable works and skills, I have seen the dark side of my companions’ practices. With “the dark side” I mean the true side, the human side, the real side of a practicing artist. The real side is composed by many factors, but one has the starring role: insecurity. Fellow artists have shared their struggles and insecurities during presentations. It has been intense, heart-tearing, warm, familiar…especially familiar, as I thought I was alone in feeling insecure about life and my work. I think that the disconnection that I experience with the older generation of artists is the lack of sincerity. So far I have experienced that these artists never express their insecurities, they always seem so sure about what they do, that it has always made me feel as if I was inferior to them. Up until now I have seen my doubts as a kind of mental sickness that I’m trying to cope with, and the healing of it seems impossible. A sickness that was holding me back from becoming a true artist. I could compare this to social media: Facebook(FB). On FB we are trying to project an image of ourselves that is perfect, unrealistic, yet admired by others on FB. Sadly, the moment you show your true side, your dark side, then you are no longer admirable, you become weak in others’ eyes.
Today I am grateful to say that that perception has changed. Sharing these difficulties with artists my age, living in the same region of the world, with so many cultural aspects in common, has truly dusted me off, leaving room for a new window, a view of an inhabited dessert.
One question/correction that remains is: What is up with the older generation of artists? Is it possible that there are people who don’t have any insecurities about their work? Will time heal the sickness? Or is it that with time these artists learn to hide these insecurities?
I honestly can’t even take a guess on this. All I know is that my insecurities are there and I’m not the only one.
I think it’s important to document this whole experience, not only in a technical way, like Caribbean Linked III is doing on social media, but a more intimate way of documentation. A portrait that can come closer to what I, we, have experienced during this residency. In Aruba, the group gathered here reflects a diversity of phenotypes, personalities and approaches towards art, which makes it an environment that is very rich. During my stay here I have met people with whom I have established a real connection and some with whom I have not. In such a diverse group it’s normal that I would feel more connected with some rather than others. One of the conclusions I’ve gotten out of this is that no matter whether you like someone as a person or not, it is not relevant for the influence that this particular person will have on you and your work.
It’s an act of exchanging ideas, behaviour and habits that happen without consent or permission. This influence is like a bullet going through your flesh, it has no reverse and if it doesn’t kill you, at least it will leave a wound behind. Either way it will cause something.
I want to conclude my story with a sentence in my native language, Spanish:‘Caribbean Linked’ es como la tierra fértil donde crecen las frutas que nos alimentan las ideas (Caribbean linked is like a fertile soil where fruits grow and these fruits nurture our ideas).
To me the most outstanding aspect of Caribbean Linked III has been these exchanges of perspectives and the influence it has had on my practice as an artist. At the end of the residency we will show work, this will be the tip of the iceberg. I’m not saying that the work is not important, what I’m trying to say is that the work is a result of all these connections.
Thank you Ateliers ’89.
Thank you Caribbean Linked.
Thank you fellow artists.
Thank you Aruba.
Marvi Johanna Franco Zapata was born in 1985 in Cali, Colombia. In 1993 she emigrated to Curaçao. She completed a Fine Arts preparatory course at Instituto Buena Bista (IBB), Curaçao in 2007. From then until 2012 she studied Fine Arts at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. After completing her studies Zapata returned to Curaçao, where she is currently living and working.